Former Sony Music Australia CEO Denis Handlin has had a third award revoked in the wake of a Four Corners report that addressed a “toxic” workplace culture he allegedly fostered at the label.
In a statement shared today (October 18), representatives for APRA AMCOS confirmed that Handlin was stripped of his Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music, which the organisation bestowed to him at the 2009 APRA Awards.
Noting that the APRA Board had “unanimously resolved” to revoke the award, the statement read: “APRA AMCOS is committed to fostering a music industry that upholds a high level of professional respect and conduct, and does not condone any form of bullying.
“Every single participant in our music industry has a responsibility to act safely and respect others. We recognise and accept there’s still much work to do in this space. We are committed to making the decisions that need to be made and to working with the broader industry so that we can collectively bring about this shift in culture.”
The move comes exactly a week after the ABC aired Four Corners: Face The Music, an exposé into Handlin’s tenure at Sony that revealed several allegations of systemic bullying, discrimination and misconduct at the label under his leadership. Over 100 current and former Sony employees were interviewed for the report, with former finance director Alan Terrey saying that any staff working under Handlin “were basically puppets”.
Thus far, Handlin has been stripped of two other accolades in the wake of the programme’s debut. Last Wednesday (October 13) QMusic confirmed it had revoked Handlin’s honorary Queensland Music Award, saying it made the decision after the Four Corners report “laid bare the undeniable fact that the culture at Sony Music Australia during Denis Handlin’s tenure came with significant human cost”.
The decision was followed on Friday (October 15) with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) stripping Handlin of his honorary Icon Award, which he’d received in 2014. He’d been a member of the ARIA board since 1984, but his dismissal from Sony entailed his ouster as chairman, with Natalie Waller replacing him as ARIA’s first female chair.
On the flipside, the Council of the Order of Australia said Handlin would not be stripped of his two honours – Handlin was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2005, and promoted to Officer (AO) in 2017 – noting in its own statement that “unanimous community approval is not a criteria for Council to make a recommendation”.
Handlin served at Sony Music Australia for over 50 years and was named CEO in 1984. His departure was announced in an email sent to Sony employees in June, wherein Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer reportedly said it was “time for a change in leadership”, with “further announcements in terms of the new direction of [Sony’s] business in Australia and New Zealand” to be made “in due course”.
In a statement shared by Four Corners, a spokesperson from Sony Music Entertainment said: “We take all allegations of bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behaviour from our employees very seriously and investigate them vigorously. Only recently did claims surface and we are examining them expeditiously.”
In his own statement to the programme’s team, Handlin wrote: “I have always provided support and encouragement to women in the industry and personally championed diversity. I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate or discriminatory manner. At any time I was made aware of this sort of behaviour I took action to ensure that it was stopped and didn’t occur again.”